College tests help turn dreams to reality | Dr. Nancy Coogan

For the first time, every single student at Foster High School will take either the SAT college admission exam or the PSAT (practice SAT) on Oct. 16. This is a huge deal. For starters, there are the obvious tangible benefits. Completing the SAT — preferably with a high score! — is one of the most significant steps in the college enrollment gauntlet.

Foster High School Principal Pat Larson told me about a recent conversation she had with a student on an extended route to graduation. She asked him where he wanted to be five years from now. His response: Nobody had ever had a conversation like that with him before. Consequently, he never took the opportunity to imagine — to hope — beyond the struggle of today. They talked about his interests and skills and corresponding opportunities, and the wheels were visibly turning in his head. It was such a powerful experience that afterward the student asked Principal Larson if he could just sit in silence to process for a good 10 minutes.

For the first time, every single student at Foster High School will take either the SAT college admission exam or the PSAT (practice SAT) on Oct. 16. This is a huge deal. For starters, there are the obvious tangible benefits. Completing the SAT — preferably with a high score! — is one of the most significant steps in the college enrollment gauntlet. The PSAT prepares students for the SAT, makes them instantly eligible for national scholarships and enters their contact information in a university database for outreach.

But there’s something bigger that happens. The very process of taking the SAT or PSAT inherently asks each high school student to imagine their future — and not only that, to imagine a future in which college is within their reach. It’s no longer good enough to make this testing opportunity available to students who choose to take it; it’s our obligation to ensure every student has the exposure. Our children have an incredible ability to live up to their own self-beliefs . . . whether for good or for bad. I sincerely hope that Principal Larson will never hear from another student that he has never thought of his future because, at the very least, we are now dedicating time to dreaming big through annual SAT/PSAT testing.

OK, OK — enough of the why. What most students want to know is the how. I wish I had the magic key to a perfect SAT score, but there’s no substitution for hard work and study. There are, however, many ways to help mentally and physically prepare for this particular test:

• This is a long test! It’s important to be well rested so get a good night’s sleep and don’t let the option of late-night studying outweigh your wellbeing.

• Eat a balanced, high-protein meal beforehand to help you focus.

• Do continually practice in an environment with the same questions and time restrictions. There is a stamina and physical memory component that becomes easier each time.

• When in doubt, leave it blank! There is a penalty for wrong answers on the SAT, so guess only if you can eliminate at least two of the five choices.

• Use every second. Skip questions that have you stumped and come back to them. If you have time, rework questions that gave you some trouble.

Foster staff members are the real experts here, and they are doing a masterful job leading up to the SAT/PSAT day to prep students. Ultimately, no matter what their final scores, every student has succeeded just by participating. It’s a door opening to endless possibilities for the future.

In service,

—Dr. Nancy Coogan

Tukwila School District Superintendent Nancy Coogan can be reached via email at coogann@tukwila.wednet.edu.

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